The Boston Phoenix, an alternative weekly newspaper, published a photograph of the severed head of Daniel Pearl, the 38-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter who was taken hostage 23 January 2002 and killed afterward by Islamic militants in Pakistan.
The move ignited outrage and elicited some support on talk radio, reported The New York Times in a 7 June 2002 story.
The photograph of Pearl’s head accompanied an editorial explaining why the 36-year-old weekly newspaper included a link to a web-hosting company that ran the video.
“This is the single most gruesome, horrible, despicable, and horrifying thing I’ve ever seen,” Phoenix publisher Stephen Mindich wrote in an online note below the link. “If there is anything that should galvanize every non-Jew hater in the world — of whatever faith, or of no faith — against the perpetrators and supporters of those who committed this unspeakable murder, it should be viewing this video.”
According to the Times story, Mindich and Phoenix editor Peter Kadzis compared the Pearl photo to the photographs of a firefighter carrying a dead baby from the Oklahoma City bombing and the dragging of a dead U.S. soldier through the streets of Mogadishu by a Somalian mob.
Vincent Alabiso, executive editor of The Associated Press, told the Times that the Pearl photo does “nothing to advance the story.” He added, “To carry something this graphic, there needs to be an explicit reason based on news.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation threatened to take legal action against Pro Hosters, a web-hosting company in Virgina, if it didn’t remove the four-minute video from its site, according to a Wired story. The video was restored after the American Civil Liberties Union contacted the FBI.
Wired said the move to restore the video was “mostly symbolic, since other sites also have distributed the unedited video. It’s surfaced on Yahoo’s Geocities, on consumptionjunction.com, bangedup.com, shopping-nice.com and the venerable Usenet newsgroup alt.binaries.pictures.tasteless.”
Last month, CBS News broadcast 30 seconds from the video but without the graphic scenes. In a statement, Dan Rather said, in part, “CBS News brought you this report because, even in highly edited form, the video illustrates how far an enemy will go to spread its message of hate for the United States.”